Modern Languages

Foreign languages form an integral part of the education of today’s youth. The ability to communicate with considerable proficiency in at least one modern foreign language is increasingly a necessity of contemporary life. It continues to be true that the study of languages changes one’s perspective not only of different parts of the world, but also of one’s own language and culture. At the same time, the study of language provides the opportunity to learn to appreciate differences and to be less ethnocentric.Learning a foreign language involves learning grammar, vocabulary, and the cultural structure behind them. In order to accomplish this goal, students must develop their aural, oral, visual, reading, and writing skills from the first day on. In more advanced levels, students also develop critical thinking and analytical skills.The aim of the Modern Language Department is to give St. Mark’s students interesting and challenging instruction in the language or languages they have decided to learn, and to make them stronger students as well as more aware and appreciative of the cultural values of the people whose language they are studying.In order to accomplish these goals, the Modern Language Department uses very diverse, interactive, and dynamic modern language pedagogy. Extensive technological support includes computers, Internet access, and a language lab. The Modern Language Department encourages students to travel abroad and to take advantage of our exchange programs to France and Germany.



The Modern Languages Department is introducing the study of Chinese language this year on a trial basis by offering only the first two levels. It is our hope that the interest in the Chinese language and culture will continue. If so, at that point we will incorporate a level III course in order for the students to be able to satisfy the diploma requirements. The addition of more advanced levels beyond level III will ultimately depend upon the interest in the program.

Chinese I - Year

St. Mark’s will be introducing Chinese to our modern languages program beginning academic year 2011-2012.   This is an introductory course to modern standard Mandarin Chinese. It will introduce students to Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, tones, grammar, conversation, reading, and writing, with an emphasis on basic oral proficiency. Through learning the language, the students will also have the opportunity to learn about daily life in China and to explore and develop an appreciation for Chinese culture and history which serve as keys to studying the Chinese language.

Chinese II - Year

This course builds on language skills developed in Elementary Chinese. The course will complement and review basic grammar and key sentence patterns of Chinese and further develop the four skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing the Chinese characters. It will also build vocabulary, expand reading comprehension, and encourage extensive conversation in Chinese. The course will also cover additional aspects of Chinese culture and history.

French I - Year

The aim of the course is to introduce, in a full immersion classroom, the basis of French language and cultures from the Francophone world.  As soon as you enter the classroom you enter another Francophone country.  At the end of this first year, the students will be able to interact with Francophone native speakers in almost every situation they could encounter in a trip to France. The emphasis will be on developing oral fluency, but attention will also be given to listening, reading and writing.  Students have different expectations when it comes to speaking a language and this class allows each and every student to find his/her own pace through an extensive use of a communicative approach. Oral participation in class is key in order to succeed in this course.

French II -Year

The main objective for the course is to review and consolidate the basis of French language and culture in a full immersion classroom. The first few weeks will allow students to receive a complete and extensive review of French I material.  Then, the emphasis for the rest of the year will be on authenticity.  Authentic documents will be used in order to learn and reproduce an authentic and modern use of the French language.  Everyday culture will be reinforced and connections between language and culture will be presented and, most importantly, assimilated. Oral participation will continue be the key to success in this class.

French III- Year

This course continues and refines the work done in French I and II.  Students will practice and improve the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  During the first weeks there is a thorough review of French grammar.  Students are encouraged to use more complex sentences in speaking and writing. They are introduced to authentic texts written for a Franco-phone public.  French films and French literature are introduced for cultural content and to encourage discussion.  The course is fully conducted in French. Student participation in French is encouraged and expected.  By the end of the year students should be able to converse with a native speaker of French on a variety of subjects.

The History of France (17th through 19th centuries) - Fall

This course, whose readings are entirely in the target language, will focus on French history from Louis XIV’s moving of the French capital to Versailles through the industrial revolution in 19th century France. It will include the French desire for creating an empire and the establishments of colonies in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. There will be a review of grammar to help students express themselves in written and oral presentations they will prepare for class.  The textbook Trésor du Temps contains the historical readings and grammar work.  Several films (Vatel, Ridicule, Napoleon and Indochine) will supplement the textbook.  The films will be viewed and analyzed. Internet research will be part of the course.  This course will be taught in French.  (Prerequisite: successful completion of FR30. While not required, it is recommended that students wanting to go into the AP French Language course take FR42 in the spring semester.  It may be taken concurrently with or after any AP French course)

Contemporary Francophone World (20th and 21st centuries) - Spring

The course will focus on cultural and contemporary issues throughout the French-speaking world, but more specifically North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia), Canada (Quebec), and France.  The effects of immigrants shaping the current identity of these countries will be addressed. We will look at how the influx of German pioneers in the1820s to the present day migration of North Africans has changed France’s cultural persona.  Students will examine the circumstances surrounding immigrants’ decision to migrate to France as well as Canada.

The curriculum will include excepts of novels written by Assia Djebar, Ying Chen, Sami Namir, news articles by Le Monde and Radio France International, movies such as Inch Allah Dimanche and La Haine and music that will serve as informative tools in the study of this complex cultural and political phenomenon.  Students will be expected to play an active role in researching and presenting, as well as participate in classroom discussion.  Reading, writing, listening, and speaking components of the language will be stressed and furthered developed throughout the course.  (Prerequisite: successful completion of FR30. While not required, it is recommended that students take FR41 in the fall semester as the background for this course.  It may be taken concurrently with or after any AP French course)

Advanced Placement French Language - Year

The main objective for this course is to develop the necessary language skills in French, placing a big emphasis on writing, in order to pass the AP Language Examination.  However, practical communication skills will continue to be very important.  Not only will the students study the specificities of writing an essay in French, but they will also consolidate their grammar and vocabulary through the use of literary works from many Francophone writers and poets.  Creativity and discipline should be the two key words for this class.  By the end of the year, students will be able to write and communicate in a more meaningful way that will help them for their university studies.  (Prerequisites: students must have a high honors average in French, receive departmental recommendation, and pass a departmental placement test)

Contemporary French Literature - Year

The French department will offer an advanced course in French literature for students who have completed French 41/42 or AP French Language. This course will replace the French AP Literature Course. It is for students who enjoy reading French and discussing French literature. We will work on literary analysis, creative and analytical writing, vocabulary development and speaking skills. The selections of French readings will be from 20th century French and francophone (from French speaking countries) literature. The texts will be selected to appeal to student interest. In general we will read short stories, some poetry and some shorter novels. Where possible, texts will be chosen that have been made into films. We will view the films and compare to the written texts.  (Prerequisites: completion of French 41/42 or French 50 and departmental recommendation).

German I - Year

This student-centered course’s primary emphasis is to develop speaking skills.  The content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (A1), the class is conducted primarily in German, and a German-only textbook is used.  A high level of student participation is expected as students work with authentic cultural material to develop their vocabulary and their communication skills.  The development of reading, writing, and grammar skills is secondary and is designed to support the students’ ability to express themselves in simple, but correct German.

German II -Year

Students continue to work on developing their vocabulary and their speaking skills, and emphasis on developing reading and writing skills is gradually added.  The content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (A2) and a German-only textbook is used. Students will work on becoming more independent speakers of German.  Grammar is taught in support of communication skills and by the end of the second year, all basic grammar has been covered.

German III - Year

Students continue to work on developing their speaking skills and becoming more independent and self-reliant in expressing their opinions and defending them in a variety of situations.  Students learn to express themselves with more complex German.  A more formal and traditional review of German grammar is introduced.  Students work on developing more sophisticated writing skills and they will read texts dealing with contemporary issues.  A major play will be read in the spring.  Much of the content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (B1).

German IV - Year

This course, primarily a composition and communication course, stresses practical communication skills.  Students will read or hear and then discuss and analyze nonliterary and literary texts. Grammar review is continued.  With the recommendation of the teacher, students may take the Advanced Placement Examination and/or the Zertifikat Deutsch als Fremdsprache Exam at the Goethe Institute in Boston.  (Permission of the Department is required)

German V - Year

The main focus of this course is a survey of recent German-language literary texts.  Through literary analysis, students will work on developing their writing skills.  Students will also continue to work on their communication skills.  (Will only be offered if there is sufficient enrollment. Permission of the Department is required)

Spanish I - Year

Students learn to express themselves in simple but correct Spanish. The course aims to develop communication skills and an awareness of the cultural diversity of the Spanish-speaking world. The class is conducted primarily in Spanish. Different kinds of authentic and audiovisual materials are used to enhance the exposure of the students to real-life situational interactions and culture. Although the main focus of the course is oral communication, attention will also be given to reading and writing skills.

Spanish II - Year

The study of basic Spanish is completed in this course. Students will be fully immersed in a Spanish speaking environment. Considerable review of first-year Spanish is accomplished in the early weeks of the course to meet the needs of new and continuing students. Readings and conversational material of increasing sophistication are introduced to prepare the students for the third level. Different kinds of authentic and audiovisual materials are used to enhance the exposure of the students to real-life situational interactions and culture. While great attention will continue to be on oral communication, part of the aim of the course is to improve the writing and reading skills of the students.

Spanish III - Year

This course continues to develop language skills for practical oral communication in Spanish, while strengthening the listening, writing, and reading skills to a reasonable proficiency level.  The culture of the Spanish-speaking world is emphasized and supported by an audiovisual program, which also helps students reinforce their listening comprehension skills as well as review their vocabulary and grammar.  Spanish continues to be the only language used in the classroom.  Different kinds of texts, including literary works, will be used to enhance the students’ language skills and cultural awareness.  (Open to any student who has successfully completed Spanish III.  May be taken concurrently with or after any AP Spanish course)

Pre-Columbian Civilizations - Fall

This semester course will focus on the cultures of Ancient Mexico, Central America, and South America.  The course will explore the art, religion, and sociopolitical and economic systems of these cultures. It will address their origin, development and, in some cases, mysterious disappearance.  The course will continue with the discovery of the Americas, more significant explorers, and the impact of conquest.  The course will conclude with the legacy and traditions of the pre-Columbian civilizations in the world today.

This course attempts to give students a broader knowledge of Latin American history as well as ancient civilizations. The students will have a chance to compare these cultures to others from the same time period, as well as look at events in other parts of the world during the pre-Columbian times.

This course is directed to those students who, besides wanting to improve their Spanish oral, reading and writing skills, are interested in history, art, and religion.  It will be conducted completely in Spanish. Students will be asked to do oral presentations, research projects, and essays.  Students will use a variety of educational materials that will take them to different archaeological sites and introduce them to explorers.  When possible, a voluntary but recommended trip to different Pre-Columbian archaeological sites will be offered in March as a hands-on addendum to the course.  (Open to any student who has successfully completed Spanish III. It may be taken concurrently with or after any AP Spanish course.)

Latin American History - Spring

This course is designed to introduce students to the people, places, culture and history of Latin America.  Topics to be investigated include colonial Latin America, modernity vs. tradition (Argentina), 19th century Spanish America (Guatemala), slavery and freedom in the 19th Century (Brazil), The Mexican Revolution, populism & post populism (Argentina, Cuba) and dictatorships (Chile) to provide a comparison as well as to emphasize the similarities of the Latin American historical experience. Historical investigation will begin with the American-European encounter in 1492 and continue chronologically with investigation of the struggle for colonial independence, the “Boom” period of the Twentieth Century and political and economic turmoil of the last 40 years.  Students will investigate Latin American history with primary texts in conjunction with narratives, essays, poetry, film, and music.  Students will focus on writing skills, class discussion, and presentation.  Each student will work on a culminating final research project.  (Prerequisite: successful completion of SP30. While not required, it is recommended that students take SP42 in the fall semester as the background for this course.  It may be taken concurrently with or after any AP Spanish course).

Advanced Placement Spanish Language - Year

This course, comparable to a college-level composition and conversation course, stresses practical communication skills in Spanish while at the same time introducing the student to contemporary Hispanic literature.  By the end of this course, the student is prepared for the Advanced  Placement Examination in Spanish Language.  (Prerequisites: students must have a high honors average in SP30 or completion of SP41 and SP42, and Departmental recommendation.  Students must also pass a Departmental placement test).

Advanced Placement Spanish Literature - Year


This course will cover different centuries, a wide variety of authors that represent diverse geographical areas of the Spanish speaking world, and an array of genres and types of discourse. The course is organized by periods and authors. However, depending on the interest of the students, the works will be read chronologically, by themes or genres. This course will culminate with the Advanced Placement Spanish Literature exam.  (Prerequisites: a score of 3 or higher on the Advanced Placement Examination in Spanish Language and departmental recommendation)

The course covers:

Medieval and Golden Age Literature.  Students will read romances from the Spanish Reconquest; chronicles from the explorer Cabeza de Vaca; poems from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Quevedo, Góngora, Juan Manuel, and Garcilaso de la Vega; works by Cervantes, and plays by Tirso de Molina.

Nineteenth-Century Literature:

Students will read poems by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Ruben Darío, José de Espronceda, José María Heredia, and José Martí; articles by Mariano José de Larra; works by Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), Ricardo Palma, and Emilia Pardo Bazán.

Twentieth-Century Literature:

Students will read poems by Julia de Burgos, Rosario Castellanos, Federico García Lorca, Nicolás Guillén, Antonio Machado, Pablo Neruda, and Alfonsina Storni; works by Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Federico García Lorca, Gabriel García Márquez, Carmen Martín Gaite, Horacio Quiroga, Juan Rulfo, Sabine Ulibarri, Miguel de Unamuno, and Sergio Vodanovic.